Before we talk to others about their road behaviour, we need to look at ourselves. Do we follow the rules and drive safely? Each citizen should ask themselves - are we following road rules because we believe in them or are we acting when we are being watched by the traffic police (or the security camera)? Because, each individual must take the responsibility to obey and follow traffic rules such as signalling while changing lanes or turning from one road into another, curb speed, wait to turn when the light is green at a signal, not honking unnecessarily especially near hospitals and schools.

There is a difference between intention and behaviour. Most people don’t plan to break the rules but they end up breaking them anyway. They may go over the speed limit, not because they have decided to do so, but perhaps their passenger is telling them to hurry up, or the car next to them is speeding and so they feel it is okay to go faster. It is easy to let our behaviour be influenced like this. Often this happens without us even realising it. Unfortunately, by breaking the rules, we increase the risk of an accident.

Let’s look at some simple rules that we should make a conscious effort to follow, while we are driving.

Signalling

Always remember safety starts with you. Be aware that, at any time, other road users around you do not know which way you plan to move or when. When you plan to change lanes, always signal using the indicator or with hand signals. Hand signals are useful if the vehicle’s indicators are not working. Please remember to switch off the indicator after the turn. The universal hand signals that would help the person behind you be aware of your intention are given below.

Figure 1 (Source: http://www.drivingtesttips.biz/driving-hand-signals.html)

We often don’t bother to signal left turns or that we plan to slow down and look for parking. But signalling this is as important as indicating a right turn. Otherwise the vehicle behind ours’ is likely to rear end us or a two-wheeler may try to overtake on the left (this is illegal!) and crash into us.

To weave or not to weave in traffic?

Weaving in traffic gives enjoyment to youngsters and they think they will reach their destination quicker this way. I came across this site where a team called Mythbuster prove that weaving through traffic is not safe and does not save much time compared to driving normally and following the rules. According to a test they conducted, they had one person weave through traffic while four others drove properly without weaving. They found that the person who weaves saved not more than 17 minutes  as shown in the image below. Still some would argue that 17 minutes is a lot of time. The question is, “Is 17 minutes worth risking your life for?” Remember,  if you are dead, the 17 minutes don’t really matter.

Figure 2 (Source: theblaze.com)

When we weave through traffic, other vehicles are not expecting us and we have no way of anticipating any change in lane, direction, or speed that they are about to undertake. Even if they see us in time and brake, the vehicle behind them may not realise what is happening till it is too late! Also in India people tend to jump on and off vehicles in slow moving traffic (or at traffic lights) so you can imagine if we decide to weave past a bus just when some passengers are jumping off!

Driving on the wrong side

Driving on the wrong side is one of the major violations in traffic rules that we see. This may cause much much bigger accidents. Citizens take this risk on a daily basis without even realising that this is harmful exercise. A friend of mine mentioned how once she was walking on the road (because there was no pavement) in Ahmedabad when a two-wheeler coming the wrong way almost hit her. The two-wheeler rider started shouting that she should be more careful. When my friend said that you should not be coming on this side, the rider agreed that she was driving on the wrong side but since she was honking it was okay! Considering that everyone on the road is honking all the time, how she expected my friend to notice her honking, I don’t know. Anyway the two-wheeler rider should not be on wrong side.

Another excuse you often hear (for driving on the wrong side) is, “It’s only for a short distance.” But how would you define a short distance and why should that make it okay? Autorickshaw drivers have told me that it’s okay, the rules don’t apply in the middle of the night! Rules are applicable at all times of the day or night and whether you are driving 2m or 10 km.

Unfortunately, enforcement of rules is not good in India. I recently read that the Delhi police are seizing the licence of people who drive on the wrong side. This practice should be followed by other states too.

Figure 3 (Source:http://www.loupiote.com/photos/15356476722.shtml)

No Honking

We like to honk a lot. Indians honk to show irritation with the traffic, to harass other drivers into giving way and for no reason at all. Sometimes I notice people honking at regular intervals - every 10 seconds or 20 seconds. I have always wondered why. Maybe they believe that because they honked, they can now continue to break rules and it is upto the others on the road to look out.  It is very frustrating and annoying when people do this. The horn is there to alert someone who may be about to hit you or maybe to chase away the buffaloes standing in the road. Just joking on the last example! It is not there to express your anger or to irritate someone.

Moreover, honking unnecessarily adds to the noise pollution. Research has shown that even a healthy person gets stressed when there is a lot of noise, so just think about the sick and the young. This is why honking is prohibited near educational institutes and hospitals. Researchers have linked traffic noise to high blood pressure and increased levels of hormones such as cortisol and noradrenaline, which increase stress and cause sleep problems. Noise pollution is also connected to coronary heart disease. WHO, in 2011, published a report on how traffic related noise is impacting health in Europe. The report estimates that one million healthy life years are lost every year in Europe due to traffic related noise. This is in Europe; the problem in India is much worse. Imagine how many healthy life years we must be losing because we can’t stop hitting the horn.

Did you know that April 26 is “NO-HONKING DAY”? Isn’t it time we tried to make everyday a no-honking day?

Figure 4 (Source: DNA India)

Road users are responsible for showing consideration, for having a sense of judgment and responsibility in traffic, and for complying with traffic regulations. Also road safety is a shared responsibility for all road users. Only if each of us follow the rules can we drive safely and reduce injuries and deaths on our roads. The government, through the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill 2017 is trying to improve the road safety situation in India by increasing fines, improving the driving licence system and more. It is time that we do our part by following the road rules.

References:

  1. http://www.scienceservingsociety.com/ts/text/ch09.htm
  2. https://www.mdt.mt.gov/other/webdata/external/research/docs/research_proj/tsc/8882-309-03_SAFETY_CITIZENSHIP_TASK_1_REPORT.pdf
  3. https://yourstory.com/2016/07/road-safety/